The Semi-Finals round of the 2022 WNBA Playoffs Presented by Google tips off on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 4:00 PM on ESPN, with the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces hosting the fourth-seeded Seattle Storm in Game 1 of a best-of-five series.
This is the series for you if you’re looking for one with star power. How about seven No. 1 overall draft picks between the two teams: Sue Bird (2002), Tina Charles (2010), Jewell Loyd (2015) and Breanna Stewart (2016) for Seattle, and Kelsey Plum (2017), A’ja Wilson (2018) and Jackie Young (2019) for Las Vegas.
Then there’s the fact that seven of the 22 players named to the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game represent either Seattle or Las Vegas. For the Aces, it was team captain Wilson, the game’s MVP Plum, Young, and Dearica Hamby; for the Storm, it was the other team captain Stewart, along with Bird and Loyd.
Finally, let’s take a glance at this season’s statistical leaderboards, which are stacked with players from Las Vegas and Seattle:
- Points: Stewart won her first scoring title (21.8 ppg), followed by Plum (20.2 ppg) as the runner up and Wilson (19.5 ppg) rounded out the top five
- Blocks: Wilson led the league in blocks (1.9 bpg) for the second time in her career, with Seattle’s Ezi Magbegor (1.8 bpg) as the runner up
- Rebounds: Wilson finished second in rebounding (9.4 rpg), while Stewart finished seventh (7.6 rpg)
- Assists: Chelsea Gray finished fourth in the league in assists (6.1 apg) to lead the Aces, while Bird finished sixth (6.0 apg) and Plum finished ninth (5.1 apg)
- Steals: Gray finished fourth in steals (1.6 spg), narrowly edging out Stewart (1.6 spg), while Seattle’s Gabby Williams tied for ninth (1.5 SPG).
- 3-Pointers Made: Plum leads the WNBA in total 3-pointers made (113), while Loyd ranks fourth (84).
- 3-Point Percentage: Young ranks third in 3-point percentage (43.1%), followed by Plum in fourth (42.0%), while Bird (38.9%) and Loyd (38.5%) round out the top 12.
- Game 1: Seattle Storm at Las Vegas Aces; Sunday, Aug. 28; ESPN, 4:00 PM ET
- Game 2: Seattle Storm at Las Vegas Aces; Wednesday, Aug. 31; ESPN2, 10:00 PM ET
- Game 3: Las Vegas Aces at Seattle Storm; Sunday, Sept. 4; ABC, 3:00 PM ET
- Game 4*: Las Vegas Aces at Seattle Storm; Tuesday, Sept. 6; ESPN2, Time TBD
- Game 5*: Seattle Storm at Las Vegas Aces; Thursday, Sept. 8; ESPN2, Time TBD
* if necessary
HOW THEY GOT HERE
- Earned the No. 1 seed in the WNBA Playoffs with a 26-10 regular season record and the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Chicago Sky
- Swept the Phoenix Mercury in the first round, 2-0
- Earned the No. 4 seed in the WNBA Playoffs with a 22-14 regular season record and the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Washington Mystics
- Swept the Washington Mystics in the first round, 2-0
SEASON SERIES (Las Vegas 3, Seattle 1)
- May 8, 2022: Aces 85, Storm 74: Recap/Highlights | Box Score
- June 29, 2022: Storm 88, Aces 78: Recap/Highlights | Box Score
- Aug. 7, 2022: Aces 89, Storm 81: Recap/Highlights | Box Score
- Aug. 14, 2022: Aces 109, Storm 100: Recap/Highlights | Box Score
The Aces won the season series three games to one, picking up the first win in the series (in the second game of the season for both teams) behind a brilliant game from Wilson, who finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds, and five blocks. In the 26-year history of the WNBA, this was only the 15th time a player posted a 20-15-5 game in the regular season or playoffs. The second matchup went to the Storm as Loyd scored 11 of her game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter to lead Seattle to the win.
The teams met twice in the final week of the regular season, with Las Vegas picking up a pair of single-digit wins. Their matchup on Aug. 7 had the two All-Star captains, former league MVP winners, and the two frontrunners for this year’s top individual honor on full display. Stewart scored a season-high 35 points and ten rebounds for the Storm, while Wilson led the Aces with 29 points on 13-of-24 shooting.
On the final day of the regular season, it was time for the guards to show out as Gray finished with a career-best 33 points and nine assists to lead Las Vegas. Gray became only the sixth player in league history to post at least 33 points and nine assists in a WNBA game. For Seattle, Loyd scored a career-best 38 points – just seven days removed from a woeful one-point outing against the Aces – as she became only the eighth player in league history to knock down at least eight 3-pointers.
Tale of the Tape: Regular Season Head-to-Head Matchups
When looking at the numbers, Seattle held a significant advantage in 3-point shooting – making four more 3s per game and shooting five percentage points higher. But Vegas countered that with substantial advantages in shooting from the field, drawing fouls, and making free throws.
THREE STORYLINES TO WATCH
Sue’s Final Flight Continues
By winning their First-Round series over Washington, the Seattle Storm guaranteed at least three more games – and at least one more home game at Climate Pledge Arena – for Bird, set to retire at the end of the season.
As the closeout game against the Mystics showed, Bird can still deliver for the Storm in the postseason. Bird finished with 18 points, ten assists, and just one turnover in 33 minutes. Only four other players have accomplished that in a playoff game: Cynthia Cooper, Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, and Natasha Cloud.
Can the Storm send Sue off into the sunset with a fifth championship? If so, they would become the first franchise with five titles, and Bird would join Rebekkah Brunson as the only player with five rings (four in Minnesota, one in Sacramento).
Can the Aces Avenge their 2020 Finals Loss?
While the Aces team history only dates back to 2018 in Las Vegas, this is one of the WNBA’s original eight franchises as the team went from the Utah Starzz (1997-2002) to the San Antonio Silver Stars (2003-2013), the San Antonio Stars (2014-2017) before moving to Nevada.
The franchise first made the WNBA Finals in 2008, with (Las Vegas’ first-year head coach) Becky Hammon starring at point guard as the Detroit Shock swept the Silver Stars.
The second Finals trip came two years ago when the Aces were once again swept in the championship series – this time against a Seattle Storm team that featured many of the same players they’ll face in this series.
As the Aces attempt to make it back to The Finals and chase that first championship and that first Finals win, they’ll have to overcome the championship-laden Storm to do so.
All-Star Captains/Top MVP Candidates Face Off
We opened this preview looking at the vast amount of star power that will be featured in this series, but there is no bigger matchup to watch than Wilson vs. Stewart as the top two candidates for league MVP battle it out with a Finals trip on the line.
Earlier this month, the WNBA revealed the schedule for the announcement of the 2022 WNBA end-of-season awards, and the league MVP is set to be awarded on Sept. 7 – between Games 4 and 5 of this series, should those games be needed (more on that later). Imagine going into a winner-take-all Game 5 with either Stewart or Wilson having to watch the other accept an award they felt they earned. Talk about adding a chip on your shoulder before the season’s biggest game.
Tale of the Tape: Regular Season Head-to-Head Matchups
We already looked at some of their head-to-head games this season, but let’s look at the numbers when these two faced one another. Wilson and Stewart led their teams in scoring with a matching 22.8 points per game. Both players averaged double-doubles, with Wilson holding the edge in rebounding by nearly two per game. Wilson outshot Stewart by almost ten percentage points from the field, but Stewart made more 3-pointers and free throws.
There are two key players to watch on the injury report heading into Sunday’s Game 1.
For Las Vegas, Dearica Hamby has been out since suffering a right knee bone contusion against the Atlanta Dream on Aug. 9. Initial reports projected she would miss two to four weeks, including the first round of the playoffs. Sunday will mark 19 days since the injury.
For Seattle, Gabby Williams suffered a concussion during the third quarter of the Storm’s Game 2 win over Washington on Sunday. Here’s wishing both players a speedy recovery so we can watch these teams compete at full strength in this series.
ONE STAT TO WATCH
Both the Storm and Aces rely heavily on the 3-point shot in their offense. During the regular season, Seattle ranked second in the league with 33.6% of their points coming from beyond the arc; Las Vegas wasn’t far behind in fourth place at 31.6%. In their opening round sweeps, those 3-point numbers rose even higher, with 3s accounting for 36.1% of Seattle’s offense and an absurd 49% of Las Vegas’ offense.
In any series, the team that shoots better on the shots that give the most points will be at an advantage. But when both teams shoot the three at such high frequency (over 37% of all shot attempts), it could be a precursor for overall success in the series.
The Aces and Storm tied for the league lead in 3-point percentage during the regular season, each shooting 36.1% from beyond the arc as a team. In the first round of the playoffs, those percentages rose even higher as the Storm shot 51.2% and the Aces shot 50% from long range.
In their Game 2 win over Phoenix to close out the series, the Aces set the WNBA record for 3-pointers made in a game with 23 as they shot 23-36 (63.9%). That’s not just more 3-pointers made in a playoff game; that’s any WNBA game over the past 26 years: regular season, postseason, preseason, or even All-Star.
Las Vegas in five games. This is a tough call as both teams enter the Semi-Finals after impressive first-round sweeps. The Aces took care of business and dispatched the short-handed Mercury in dominant fashion, while the Storm cashed in on their home-court advantage in the four vs. five matchup with Washington by winning the first two games at home and avoiding a trip to D.C.
The Aces enter the Semi-Finals riding a six-game win streak dating back to the regular season that includes two wins over the Storm (Aug. 7 and 14) discussed above. Las Vegas is the only team to beat Seattle in August, as the Storm have won five of their last seven games entering the Semi-Finals.
Now that we’re in a best-of-five series, the games will feature the traditional format of Games 1 and 2 at the higher seed (Las Vegas), Games 3 and 4 at the lower seed (Seattle), and a decisive Game 5 back at the higher seed (if necessary). Advantage Aces.
During the regular season, Las Vegas and Seattle went 13-5 at home (tied for the second-best home record in the league behind Chicago). The difference between the Aces and Storm came on the road, where Las Vegas also went 13-5 for the top road record in the league, compared to Seattle going just 9-9 on the road. Unlike the first round, Seattle must win on the road if they hope to advance to the WNBA Finals for the fifth time and pursue that record-setting fifth title.
Longtime WNBA reporter Brian Martin writes articles on WNBA.com throughout the season. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.